The first century disciples were devastated when they heard Jesus was leaving. In their distress they requested one sign that would authenticate two related events – the Lord’s coming and the end of the age. Although their urgent inquiry was made almost 2,000 years ago, there can be no issue more contemporary or of greater significance. People today, far removed from that scene and time and location, are nonetheless beneficiaries of the Lord’s warning response: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4).
The Bible is amazingly direct; it gets right to the point without embellishment. When the Bible says “fear not” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13), it is because people are fearful. When the Bible says, “I would not … that ye should be ignorant (Romans 11:25; see also 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13), it is because people are ignorant regarding a particular truth. When the Bible says, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1), it is because men’s hearts are troubled. When the Bible says, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4), it is because the generation that enters the “Tribulation” period will be in grave danger of being deceived. For this reason, it is the first issue on which the Lord focuses in His discourse with His disciples. All three synoptic Gospels herald the warning, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4; see also Mark 13:5; Luke 21:8). The idea is “watch out,” “take care,” “be on your guard,” “don’t be led astray.”
The reason for the acute danger of being deceived is not left to speculation. Jesus warned, “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). These will not be men claiming that they are Jesus; this is not the issue. They will be men who falsely claim for themselves the office of Messiah (Christ). In fulfillment of the “Messianic Hope,” they will say they can bring redemption (both political and spiritual) to those willing to set aside their weapons and follow their command.
Throughout Jewish history there have arisen more than twenty major false messiahs, to say nothing of lesser-known, self-proclaimed deliverers. In each instance, time has proven their programs for deliverance and a “Golden Age” to be nothing but a vapor. Without exception, their words were demonstrated to be cisterns without water (Jeremiah 2:13), and clouds without water (Jude 1:12); they promised, but never produced. They were simply false christs...